The more I sit in front of our bearded dragon, Bacardi’s, vivarium, the more I wonder about her. How does her vision work? How good is her sense of smell? What would she be doing if she lived in the wild?
There are lots of things we’ll never know about our beloved bearded dragons, but there’s also a lot of information out there. With my curiosity piqued, I started to research our scaly little friends. I learned a lot. Here are some of the more strange and interesting things I found that you may not know!
1. There are nine species of bearded dragon
That’s right, nine! The most common in captivity is the Pogona Vitticeps. It’s more than likely that this is the species of beardie that you own. This species’ natural tendencies lend themselves to being kept as pets.
Pogona is the genus that indicates an animal is a bearded dragon. The word that comes after is the species. All are native to different parts of Australia and they are:
- Pogona Vitticeps
- Pogona Minor Minor
- Pogona Minor Mitchelli
- Pogona Microlepidota
- Pogona Henrylawsoni
- Pogona Barbata
- Pogona Minor Minima
- Pogona Nullarbor
2. Breeders have created even more variety
Much like dogs, specific traits can be bred for within a bearded dragon species. In the breeding community, these bred-for variants are called morphs. Each morph has its own unique characteristics. Some morphs are highly sought after for their rarity and exotic appearance.
There are eleven commonly accepted morphs, each with their own identifying traits. If you ever go to a larger reptile show (something I highly recommend, just for the fun of it!), you’ll see at least a few of these morphs on display and for sale. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Classic or standard is the variety that is the closest to the beardies you’ll find in the wild in Australia. This is also the most commonly found type of bearded dragon.
- Leatherbacks are a popular morph. They have a smooth back and only have spikes on their sides and heads. They also tend to be more colorful.
- Translucent or “trans” have a translucent, almost see-through skin and spikes. They also usually have solid black or dark brown eyes.
- Hypomelanistic or “hypo” morphs cannot produce darker or richer colors in their scales and spikes. They tend to be more pastel in their appearance. Purists will insist that a true hypo has completely clear nails as well.
- Dunner is a morph named after the breeder who created them, Kevin Dunn. The dunner is identified by the lack of pattern in their coloring. It’s more of a mottled appearance than the typical patterns found on most beardies.
- Silk backs or “silkies” have no scales at all and are completely smooth. Silkies tend to be the most colorful of all the beardie morphs.
- German giants live up to their name. As adults, they are significantly larger than any other type of beardie. They are a very rare morph.
- Zero morphs are completely white. They have no color or pattern. This morph has become much more widespread as of late and it’s not uncommon to see this striking morph at a show or breeder.
- Witblits are similar to zeros in that they have no color, but they do have patterning. Witblits are seldom seen more than zeros.
- Paradox is a morph that is a mix of at least four of the above morphs. They are an odd looking dragon with translucent scales and blotches of purple, blue, or sometimes orange.
- Wero is the last morph and is a mix between a witblit and a zero. Their look is exactly what you’d expect from a mix of those two morphs.
3. They can’t be imported
With as much talk above of the Pogona Vitticeps being native to Australia, almost no beardies in captivity anywhere in the world are actually from Australia. Australia has some of the strictest animal export laws in the world.
In the 1960’s Australia outlawed the export of bearded dragons. This is a big reason you see so many morphs. Virtually all the bearded dragons in captivity in the US and Europe were bred to be pets.
This is also why they make such good pets. A wild beardie would be very hard to care for and would likely not be docile at all. A beardie bred in captivity makes a much better pet!
4. They are illegal in Hawaii
Bearded dragon breeders can be found in almost every state in the US.
Every state but Hawaii, that is. As a US citizen, you can have a bearded dragon for a pet in 49 of the 50 states. If you live in the aloha state, you cannot.
5. The like to climb trees
Bearded dragons are semi arboreal. This means they like to spend a good deal of time up in trees and bushes.
Of course, you already know this if you are a beardie owner. Give them something to climb in their vivarium and up they go! In fact, they are apt to spend the bulk of their time hanging out up high in their enclosure. Our beardie spends almost all of her time on her branch or in her hammock!
This also lends to their ability to hang out on your shoulder. Take them out, place them on the front of your shoulder, and the only problem you may have is that they try to crawl to the top of your head or down your back!
One more interesting part of their penchant for climbing is that they often sleep up high in the trees, lodged or clinging to something while they sleep soundly!
6. They can change sex
You read that right! They can change their sex. Now, this isn’t on command and it’s not something that your beardie will ever do, but it does happen.
A study found that bearded dragon eggs incubated above 90° F/32° C changed from males to females prior to hatching. I know, weird, right?!
7. They don’t have a “season”
Speaking of eggs, morphs, and breeders, bearded dragons don’t have a mating season. At least not in captivity. Breeders can breed them all year long and as long as they are not in brumation (see below) they will actively breed.
However, this is not true in the wild. In the wild, they do have a mating season that is determined by the changing weather of the natural seasons.
8. They bob their heads to communicate
Speaking of breeding season… if you place a male bearded dragon in an enclosure with several females, you are in for a bit of a show. The male will start to quickly bob his head up and down. This signals to the females that he wants to mate.
If the females approve, they will bob their heads back. Typically the girls do this at a slower rate. This slower head bob indicates it’s time for a little bit of beardie love!
Occasionally, your beardie may bob its head for other reasons. It may just be a little excited or is trying to say hi! Don’t worry, your beardie is probably not coming on to you!
9. They lay eggs
And lots of them! Bearded dragons can lay up to 20-25 eggs in a clutch. Of those, an average of 15-18 hatchlings can hatch per litter.
When all the head bobbing and mating rituals pay off, this is the result. A pregnant beardie will find a spot, dig a hole, and deposit her eggs. She’ll then tend them until they hatch. This is definitely a departure from most commonly kept house pets!
10. They wave
This is one of my favorite things to see them do. They’ll just be standing there and all of a sudden up goes an arm and they start waving!
This won’t happen often for beardies kept alone (which they should be!!!), but happens when they are with other bearded dragons.
Researchers think this waving serves two purposes. One is to greet other beardies and show that they are of the same species. It helps other beardies know they are not predators or prey. The other is to show submission.
When kept together, bearded dragons will almost immediately try to establish a social order. There will be a dominant beardie who asserts themself over the others. Waving is a way to show submission without the need for violence or aggression.
If you go to a show, a breeder, or a pet store where multiple beardies are kept together in one enclosure, you’ll often see them sitting on top of each other. This is another show of dominance. Typically it’s the beardies on the bottom that did the waving.
It’s important not to keep your beardie with another. The resulting dominance play can be very stressful to your dragon!
11. They like to live by themselves
While this might not be a new or strange fact for you, it’s important to understand none the less. Beardies should live alone. Even though some of the behaviors listed above are social ones, your beardie should have their own enclosure.
Many times, you’ll see images of multiple beardies all living together. They are usually all piled on top of each other. To us, it looks like they love each other and really like hanging out together. This is not the case.
The beardie on the bottom is not having a good time. Instead, it’s being dominated. This is stressful for any bearded dragon. They would much rather be by themselves than to always have another beardie picking on them.
Our beardie was a rescue. The place we acquired her from had kept her in a small enclosure with another, more dominant, dragon. As a result, she was regularly picked on and only ever got second shot at the food.
Because of that, at 18 months old, Bacardi only measured about 10 inches. She was stunted and will probably never grow to be a big, normal sized bearded dragon.
Even though it looks like those groups of beardies are having fun and playing when you see them all together at the breeder or a show, remember, that’s not what is happening. Each of those beardies is dreaming about getting away from the others it is crammed next to.
12. They are prey animals
While they are predators to crickets and dubia roaches, bearded dragons are prey animals.
In their natural habitat of Australia, they have to be on the lookout at all times. You’ll see them do this regularly. They find high ground, burrow, or hide. All for protection from predators.
In Australia, their most common predators are other lizards, birds of prey, and dingos (Insert “a dingo ate my baby” joke here please).
This is also why their eyes are located where they are. Prey animals (think deer, for example) have their eyes on the sides of their heads so they have a very wide field of view. Predators’ eyes (think lions or people) both face forward to facilitate hunting.
The location of their eyes is one of my favorite odd beardie behaviors as they tend to tilt their head to the side to look at something. When our beardie sees something she wants to eat, she hones in on it with one eye, head tilted to the side. I love it!
13. They are new to the US
While bearded dragons are extremely popular pets, they are relatively new in the United States. They weren’t introduced to the US until the 1990’s. In under 30 years, they have become the most commonly kept reptile in captivity.
It’s fascinating that a new animal can become so widely loved in such a short amount of time. I also find it very odd that new pets are being discovered in this day and age. This is truly a very large world that is still full of undiscovered things!
14. They are extremely popular pets
As mentioned above, bearded dragons have become a popular reptile to keep as a pet. In fact, worldwide they are the most commonly kept reptiles in homes. This is probably due to their being low maintenance and having a docile nature.
Bearded dragons are so popular as pets that they are the third most commonly kept household pet after dogs and cats in several European countries.
15. You can walk them
With the purchase of a harness and a leash, it’s relatively easy to take your beardie outside for a walk. There is a nice selection of harnesses found on Etsy, but they are also available from your local reptile store.
Your beardie will love time out in the sun. Their need for vitamin D can’t be sated quite as well from any other source. They will also love the warmth, light, and the time out of their normal home.
Personally, I draw the line before dressing them up, but if that’s your thing, you wouldn’t be the first person to put clothes on a bearded dragon. Their calm nature makes it relatively easy to do so. I’ve seen more than one bearded dragon out on a leash, dressed in its Sunday best.
16. They produce venom
While out on a walk, your beardie is certain to attract attention. They are usually good around people and you shouldn’t need to worry about them biting anyone, but you will get asked about it.
It’s a common first question for someone to ask. A follow up to that question is “are they poisonous?”. You might be surprised to find out that the answer, technically, is yes!
Bearded dragons have been found to excrete a very mild venom. While it’s harmless to people, it’s not to their prey, which is typically insects.
So if you want to have some real fun with people, tell them the truth. Yes, my dragon is venomous! How many people get to say that out loud?!
17. Some things are poisonous to them
Fireflies and avocados are toxic to your bearded dragon.
Not that you were thinking of making your beardie a firefly and avocado sushi roll for lunch today, but just in case, make sure to avoid these two things. Both are highly toxic to bearded dragons!
Make sure to check out our complete bearded dragon nutrition guide here for a full list of what you should and should not feed your bearded dragon!
18. They can run on 2 legs
You read that right. Even though our scaly little friends normally scoot around on all fours, they can run–and run well–on just their hind legs!
In the wild, this is usually how they run from predators. On all fours, they can run up to about 9 mph (14.4 kph). They run slower than this on their hind legs, but speed isn’t their goal.
Because they cannot regulate their own body temperatures, they rely on the environment to do so. Standing up and running on two legs exposes more of their body to the air as they run. This, in turn, keeps them cooler thus enabling them to run for longer distances. This helps when avoiding predators!
19. They thermoregulate through their mouths
While running upright is a way to keep cool while running from a predator, bearded dragons have other tricks up their proverbial sleeves when it comes to keeping cool.
You may have noticed your beardie sitting in their basking spot with their mouth gaping open. This isn’t a case of bad manners. Instead, it’s a way for your beardie to let some of the heat out of its body.
Bearded dragons are exothermic. This means that they regulate their temperatures using factors outside their bodies. One of the funniest looking and strange techniques they use is this mouth gaping.
I’d be lying if I said I’ve never sat in front of my beardie while she’s doing this and mimicked her. There we are, staring at each other with our mouths open. A sight to see I’m sure!
20. They see in color
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has sat there staring at their bearded dragon while the beardie stares right back. They seem to be fascinated by human attention.
One cool thing to know while you are doing this is that when your beardie is looking at you, they can see you in color! I have no idea how scientists know this, but they are certain they do.
I like thinking that while our little beardie is staring out at the picture of her homeland we have pasted on the side of her enclosure, she can see the vivid oranges and yellows of the sand and sun.
This also explains how she can immediately go to her salad and pick out all the carrots with great accuracy (she loves carrots!). She must see those little orange circles as beacons of tastiness calling out to her.
21. They can smell through their mouth
Ever notice how bearded dragons tend to test everything with their tongues? That’s because their mouth houses their sense of taste AND their sense of smell.
They do smell through their nostrils too, but in their mouth is something called a Jacobson’s, or vomeronasal organ. This is a duct that connects directly to the nasal cavity. For your bearded dragon, this is a big part of the way they experience the world around them.
22. Their tale is almost half their length
I never really noticed this until I read it, but it’s certainly true. Take a look at your beardie and you’ll see how much their tale contributes to the overall length. Bacardi is about 14 inches long now, and sure enough, 7 of that is all tail!
23. Their tales cannot grow back
One of the craziest things about some lizards is that they can intentionally drop their tale to get away from predators.
Anyone who’s chased a gecko knows that it’s not uncommon for them to drop their tale. It would hit the ground and start wiggling around on its own while the gecko continued to run. This is supposed to distract a predator so the gecko can get away.
Over time, the gecko’s tail will grow back, but your bearded dragon does not possess this ability.
First, your beardie can’t simply detach its tail to get away. Second, if they do lose part or all of their tail, it will never grow back. Bearded dragons are incapable of this common trait among other lizards.
24. Their teeth fall out and grow back
Unlike their tails, their teeth can and do grow back. Their front teeth—that is.
This is a regular occurrence that happens in a variety of situations. When it does happen, the teeth grow right back.
So if you notice a few missing teeth on your beardie, never fear. They’ll be back in no time!
25. They can swim
I won’t go as far as to say they like to swim. While many bearded dragons like bath time, it’s never recommended to put them in water over their knees.
That said, if they have to, they can swim. I would imagine this is true of many animals that would prefer not to drown.
I’m definitely not recommending tossing your beardie in a pool. In fact, when I have seen them swim, they are always making a mad dash to the edge so they can get out. They are never taking a leisurely backstroke, doing laps, or enjoying the day!
26. Their heads funnel water to their mouths
Speaking of water, beardies need to stay hydrated. They can get this in several ways, and one of them is by collecting water on their heads.
Misting your beardie may be a daily practice for you. It’s one of the recommended ways to provide water to your beardie. It’s not that the misted water absorbs into them, but more that it collects on them where they can get to it.
More specifically, the water that collects on their head will follow the natural contours of their head and funnel right to their mouths. When we mist our beardie, it’s not unusual to see her licking the water droplets off her nose.
27. They don’t urinate liquid
Even a well hydrated bearded dragon does not urinate. This is a welcome trait as they won’t pee on you when sitting on your shoulder!
Given that bearded dragons come from a desert climate, they are very savvy when it comes to water storage and use. They do not waste a drop. Instead, their efficient little bodies conserve water internally and use it to stay hydrated. None of it is lost in the form of urine.
Instead, uric acid is released in the form of a white powder. So if you see white powder left behind, it’s possible that your bearded dragon did, indeed, pee on you in their own way. Most of the time, though, you’ll see them deposit this uric acid as a white blob on the end of their poop.
28. They can sleep standing up
As a bearded dragon owner, one of my favorite things is seeing how our beardie decides to sleep each night. Sometimes she burrows down in her substrate in a corner. Other times she curls up in her hide. Many times, she sprawls out in her hammock.
What I haven’t seen her do yet, is sleep standing up. While Bacardi has not done this, she is capable of it!
Bearded dragons are capable of locking their legs and sleeping standing up. This survival tactic is from their life in the wild. I can’t wait to see this happen one day and will post a picture here when I do. Until then, I’ll just keep checking.
29. They hibernate
For bearded dragons, it’s called brumation, but it’s a very similar thing. Beardies in the wild do this seasonally. It’s a natural instinct that can last for weeks or even months!
In captivity, brumation seems hit or miss. Some bearded dragons do it, others do not. If a beardie owner is not expecting this, it can be alarming at first.
The bearded dragon will find a safe place to sleep and it will curl up and not come out for quite some time. It may occasionally emerge to eat a small amount of food or possibly take a small drink, but for the most part it will be sedentary.
30. Their spikes are soft… sometimes
At first glance, bearded dragons look like a four legged mass of sharp spikes that would keep back even the bravest of caregivers. However, that’s not the case.
If you own a bearded dragon, you already know that the spiky outcrops on your bearded dragon are actually surprisingly soft and pliable. In fact, if you pet them or rub them, they will typically give very easily under the pressure of your fingers.
This is not the case if your bearded dragon is feeling threatened or stressed. A stressed out beardie’s spikes will be prickly and stiff. This is a natural defense mechanism that happens when a bearded dragon is put in a stressful situation.
This can also be a quick way to tell if your beardie is stressed out or not. If i reach in and pet our beardie and feel that her spikes are prickly and stiff, I usually just leave her be that day. If I reach in and her spikes are soft, I know it’s a good day to spend some time with her.
31. When they shed, they change color
In addition to their spikes, their patterned coloring is a hallmark trait of the bearded dragon. In fact, it’s the coloring that varies most from morph to morph. This is evident even to the most casual observer.
What you may not notice is that every time your bearded dragon sheds, they change color. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is not. But is does happen every time.
Shedding is something that bearded dragons do for their entire lives. Since their skin cannot stretch or grow, they shed their skin and grow new skin to accommodate their changing body. This is a regular occurance.
I get excited every time our beardie starts to shed. I love seeing how her appearance will change each time. Sometimes, she gets darker. Sometimes, she develops new patterns. And sometimes, brand new colors pop up like when she developed bright orange spots right behind her ears!
32. They can be born with 2 heads… And live!
I saved the weirdest for last. It’s not only the weirdest fact about beardies, but probably the weirdest animal fact I’ve ever come across!!!
Bearded dragons can exhibit a characteristic called “bicephalism“. That’s the zoological term for having two heads! With bearded dragons, not only can they have two heads, but they can also live with them.
Although rare, it’s not at all unheard of. Head on over to this article on allthatsinteresting.com to see a gallery of multiheaded animals that includes a few beardies!!!
Bearded Dragons are weird
My girlfriend and I have a hashtag we use when we send each other pictures of Bacardi doing something weird (a daily occurrence)… #weirdbeardie. The above list is just a sampling of the weird and wonderful world of strange things about bearded dragons.
It’s no wonder they have become such popular pets so quickly. I hope this list has given you some insight into your bearded dragon. Or maybe it has given you a few reasons to jump in and become a beardie owner. Either way, enjoy these quirky little animals!